BAM!

New Philip K. Marks Story @ Black Denim Lit

Black Denim Lit

Black Denim Lit

Hey, kids! The folks over at Black Denim Lit have published my short story, Howling on For More and you can read it right now, for free!

Howling is a Philip K. Marks short story, which means, of course, that it’s creepy and a little weird as my favorite down on his luck investigator with a penchant for the strange, paranormal, and impossible looks into a new case.

Previous published Marks stories can be read, too; Sift, Almost Invisible, Through appeared in the MWA Anthology Crimes by Moonlight, edited by Charlaine Harris, and A Meek and Thankful Heart appeared in Buzzy Mag in 2013.

More Marks to come!

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The Cates Digital Shorts Going Forward

The Shattered Gears Omnibus

The Shattered Gears Omnibus

SO, my little experiment in writing a novel as a series of short story-length sections has been going on for a little more than a year now. Well, a little more than four years, if I’m being honest, as the original section, The Shattered Gears, was originally sketched out in 2011. So far I’ve released sections Two through Four (The Walled City, The Pale, The Iron Island).

I’ve been sticking to a three-month schedule for these releases in order to give myself time to write each one (I’m doing this Full Pantser, writing as I go), but as I sit here I’ve finished sections Five and Six (The Bey and The City Lord).

Well, I say “pantsed” but to be fair I have sketched out brief summaries of twelve additional sections, which would comprise books two and three of this trilogy. And I mean sketched, these are thumbnails at best that just show a basic direction. I’d done the same for the first four, and things changed significantly as I merrily pantsed my way through it, but ultimately I’d say these have been a grand example of what I call plantsing, a hybrid approach to writing (I actually spoke about this and wrote an article about this for Writer’s Digest which will be coming out in 2016, watch the skies!).

There’s some proofin’ and other checking to do (never my strong suits — as I like to tell my editors, I’m more of a Big Idea sort of guy than a spellcheck kind of guy), but basically, the novel is done. In fact, here are the covers for Sections Five and Six:

The Beycity lord_cover

Since they’re complete and ready to go, I’ve decided to accelerate the schedule a bit, so here’s what I’ll be doing:

February 15, 2016: Both The Bey and The City Lord will go on pre-sale, together, at the same time, for anyone who wants to order them.

February 15, 2016: I’ll also be putting The Shattered Gears Omnibus up for pre-order as an eBook and a print book available through Amazon. This is all six sections collected and formatted into a single novel. The goal is to price both as close to $6 as possible, so the cost will be equal whether you bought each section as they came out or bought the omnibus.

March 15, 2016: Everything goes live, I am an instant millionaire, I stop responding to your emails and texts and begin building a Bond Villain Lair somewhere in the Pacific.

Hey! I bought all six digital shorts, do I have to spend another $6 to get the nifty omnibus? Not for the digital version. If you have all six sections, there will be a mechanism for getting a free eBook of the omnibus. Unfortunately, no, there won’t be any way for me to send you a free print version.

When will Sections 7-18 (books Two and Three) be out? I don’t know. My approach and enthusiasm for the second and third books depends a bit on how everything settles out sales-wise for this one, and my schedule. I do plan to write these at some point, but am also kind of hoping that I’m so spectacularly busy being paid to write other things in 2016 I have to postpone them, so, frankly, we’ll see. On the other hand, if in the final analysis the first one does really well I’d have to move these up in priority. I’ll let y’all know.

So, there you have it, The Plan Going Forward. To everyone who has downloaded, read, and reviewed, these digital shorts: Thanks! I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Cheers!

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The Art of Collaboration

Urban Allies Coming 2016

Urban Allies Coming 2016

I’m not a great collaborator. I distrust my own ideas so much I hate to verbalize them to anyone until I’ve turned them into something I consider defensible, and my instinctive misanthropy makes me distrust just about everyone. I always assume creative collaborations will end in disaster: Tears, recriminations, burned houses and stolen cars.

In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually collaborated with someone more or less willingly. Let’s see … in 1993 I started to collaborate with three friends on what would eventually become The Inner Swine, but it wasn’t until it completely fell apart that I wound up publishing the first issue. In 1996, I collaborated very successfully with Jeof Vita on the Sliders comic “Blood and Splendor,” an event explored in this award-unwinning documentary:

Jeof and I tried to keep that partnership going, writing one script and discussing several other projects before life and our mutual hatred of each other split us apart.

More recently, Sean Ferrell and I have collaborated on a series of short videos known as Two Men Have Words, typically with one of us writing a script and providing basic direction, and the other tossing in ideas and improvisation. Although neither of us wants to take credit for anything specific.

That’s about it for me and collaboration. A few months ago, when I was invited to participate in a new anthology called Urban Allies that would involve authors of so-called Urban Fantasy novels writing collaborative stories featuring each of their characters somehow sharing a story, my first question was, how much will I get paid? And my second question was, do I have to actually speak with the other writer?

Turns out, I did. I was teamed up with Stephen Blackmoore, who would be bringing his character Eric Carter to the table. This was obviously a match made in heaven for many reasons, chief among them the fact that Eric Carter and my own Lem Vonnegan would get along famously when they weren’t plotting against each other or scheming the last free drink from each other. This, I thought, is going to be fun.

And it was! The story we wrote for Urban Allies, “Crossed Wires,” was a blast to write, because we kept handing it off to each other and being surprised by what we got back. You might think blending two complex universes (and slightly different magic systems) in 15,000 words would be difficult, but we made it look easy. Because we’re geniuses? OF COURSE because we’re geniuses!

Does this mean I’ll be collaborating more? Unlikely. I suspect Stephen and I worked together well as an exception to the rule, and my general feelings on collaboration haven’t changed — I have too many of my own ideas to work out to spend much time on someone else’s. But if Stephen Blackmoore ever wants to work on another Lem/Eric crossover, I’m in. Also, if he wants to buy me a lot of drinks because I’m so cool, that’d be fine too.

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The Iron Island Available for Pre-order at Amazon

Cates Digital Short #4

Cates Digital Short #4

As threatened, the fourth installment in my little novel experiment with Avery Cates, The Iron Island, is now available for preorder at Amazon, and will soon be live at the Kobo Store and Google Play (as always, Barnes and Noble will go live on December 15th, as they don’t really do pre-orders for the likes of me).

If you’ve read the first three in the series (The Shattered Gears, The Walled City, and The Pale) you know we left Avery with a bag over his head and on his way to the Iron Island against his will. The story picks up here shortly after as I observe Elmore Leonard’s rule about cutting out the boring bits.

Go on and pre-order if Kindle is your jam, and I’ll let you know as soon as other formats go live.

FULL NOVEL: A lot of folks have asked me if there are plans to collect the six short stories into a single volume and/or do a print version: Yes! After #5 (The Bey) and #6 (The City Lord) come out, I’ll be collecting all six into a single volume titled The Shattered Gears and putting out both a digital omnibus and a print version via Amazon’s Createspace. The price will be as close to $6 as possible so no one is penalized because of format choice.

If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

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The Iron Island Preorder Coming Next Week

Cates Digital Short #4

Cates Digital Short #4

Hey there hi there ho – a reminder that the 4th installment of my experimental-oh-so-modern series of digital-only short stories starring Avery Cates, The Iron Island will be available for pre-order next Friday, 11/13 (it would have been the 15th, but Sundays are for napping). I’ll post a link when it’s live.

A trailer’s coming too! Watch the skies.

Finally, here’s the first two paragraphs to remind you that you love Avery.

1. criminal, cop-killer, legendary asshole

Stomach rolling, I contemplated vomiting in the bag cinched over my head and the impact on my reputation that would cause. My hands were still bound, though Herra had been kind enough to cut the hogtie so I could sit normally; I could picture her wide grin on that wrinkled, weather-burned face as she reached around me to cut the ties, saying “Honor system, Cates, we’re trusting you not to jump an’ drown yourself.”

She smelled like a corpse—they all did, unwashed bodies in clothes that had been sweated and pissed and slept in—but then so did I, probably. The one blessing of the world was that you could never smell yourself.

COMING 12-15-15.

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Win a Copy of “The Pale”

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

Hey kids! Interested in the new Avery Cates short stories and the newest release in the series, The Pale (out digital-ONLY on 9/15)? Well, you can win a physical copy of the story from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. Surf on over for the rules and enter for one of just three physical copies.

Here’s the summary: Continuing from The Shattered Gears and The Walled City, Avery tries to put distance between himself and The Angels and meets an old man with an unusual companion named The Pale. When they accompany Avery thinking he’ll provide them protection on the road, they come to regret it. Because someone’s hunting Avery.

Pre-roder it at Amazon, Kobo, and Google Play – Nook will be available on 9/15, as they don’t allow pre-orders. Good luck!

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Pre-Order “The Pale”

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

The Pale: An Avery Cates Story

So, here is the third Avery Cates short story in my ongoing writing experiment: The Pale. Out on September 15, it’s available for pre-order over at Amazon and Kobo at the moment, with Google Play to follow. It’ll be available for Nook in September.

I’ve also gone ahead and created a dedicated web page for this new series, as it appears I’m actually going to keep doing this and deliver three novels in short-story slices. Why not? I’m having fun.

In The Pale, we pick up where we left off in The Walled City as Cates is on the road trying to put distance between him and The Angels. He meets an old man with a … peculiar companion, who decides to accompany Cates for security. A decision he regrets as it becomes clear that someone is hunting Avery.

Check it out!

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My Day at #WDC15

Jeff's Il Duce Pose

Jeff’s Il Duce Pose

This year I was once again invited to give a seminar on plotting a novel at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference held in New York City at the rockin’ Roosevelt Hotel. Sure, I’m a cheap date because I live in New Jersey and thus can be booked for this conference for the cost of two drink tickets, but that’s actually kind of true no matter where your event is being held. Am I saying that you can have Jeff Somers giving a speech in your living room for the price of two free cocktails? Yes, I am saying that. But it better be top shelf. We will not tolerate any of that Early Times bullshit.

Anyway, I digress. I gave the same seminar I gave last year: Take Off Your Pants and Write: Pantsing Vs. Plotting a Novel. It’s all about plotting your story and the two main techniques most people naturally gravitate towards, and how you can get out of blocked situations by using a hybrid approach. It’s rather brilliant. I’m hilarious. I even wore pants!

Unlike last year, this year we will refer to the WDAC as The Year of Competence, because with the help and guidance of The Duchess I was pretty much an adult the entire time, which, as we all know, is unusual.

I Need a Stinkin' Badge

I Need a Stinkin’ Badge

JEFF’S TIMELINE OF COMPETENCE

6AM: I am actually awake, despite consuming a lot of whiskey and some wine over dinner the evening before. Yes, my way of prepping for a big day of public speaking is to drink heavily. What of it?

8AM: I am actually on a bus, showered, sober, and dressed like either a published author or a middle-aged schoolteacher, I’m not sure which. I actually had all of my props and a backup of the presentation on a thumb drive. I make a mental note to drink more, as it obviously helps me wake up early, clearheaded and organized.

8:45AM: I am actually at the hotel and have my badge and know where my seminar is being held. This is unprecedented. The year before, I was racing around this hotel like a maniac, wide-eyed and sweating freely.

8:55AM: The Duchess, concerned that I do not know how to make my Power Point Presentation appear on the screen, stomps to the laptop and starts touching things. The screen goes black. The Duchess turns away and resumes her seat and refuses to discuss what we should do next.

9AM: A nice technical person comes and fixes what The Duchess has wrought. She looks around and whistles nonchalantly.

9:01AM: I am actually giving my presentation, and it goes well. Last year I finished up with my prepared material 20 minutes into a 50-minute session, and had to soft-shoe, sing, and take questions for half an hour. This year almost none of that is necessary. Well, the soft-shoe isn’t strictly-speaking necessary, but I do it anyway, to thunderous applause.

10AM: After some gladhanding and chatting with attendees, we stalk my agent by following the scent of brimstone. I am hopeful that she will buy me alcoholic refreshments despite the time of day, but she is too clever for me: She leads us to the bar area, sits down and makes cryptic remarks about the state of my career, shouts HEY LOOK OVER THERE and when I turn back there is only a haze of purple smoke.

11AM: The Duchess and I go to lunch. I’m not sure whether managing to eat a burger and drink several beers without incident can be listed under my accomplishments for the day, as most people manage to feed themselves without trouble. But, as The Duchess is fond of saying, I am not most people.

NOON – 3PM: Lost time. I have no memory. I am still checking the news for mentions of a drunk white man taking off his pants somewhere.

3:00PM: We’re back at the hotel, and hit the bar, where I drink several whiskies while engaged in a war with a cloud of gnats who all intend to commit suicide in my drinks. After three of the little buggers die in my tumbler, I start drinking like I’m in prison, hunched over my glass and muttering and twitching. Or, you know, like usual. Yes, I drank it anyway. This is whiskey we’re talking about.

Jeff Merely Pawn in Game of Life

Jeff Merely Pawn in Game of Life

5:30PM: I am at my assigned spot in the ballroom for the cocktail reception-slash-book signing. Jacqueline Woodson is seated at the table next to me. Her line goes out the door. I have no line. I am sad.

But, because of this newfound competence, I stick it out and eventually my people find me. My people, I think, had their priorities straight: Getting to the bar first with their drink tickets so they could double-fist the booze as quickly as possible. I meet a few folks, sign some books, and have those curiously awkward conversations where you have to shout so much you’re hoarse. A few folks buy copies of We Are Not Good People and I fall asleep, and The Duchess carries me home.

So, here’s to a job: Done. Hopefully they invite me back next year so I can try the opposite approach: Total batshit incompetence. This would be for scientific purposes, of course, to see which approach works better.

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Hanzai Japan

Hanzai Japan

Hanzai Japan

One of the great joys of writing, for me, is selling a short story. I can’t explain it: You can’t live on the money you make, you often get very little notice for it, and yet I’m privately incredibly excited whenever I manage to convince someone that some chunk of words is worth paying me for.

My short story “Three Cups of Tea” will be included in the forthcoming Hanzai Japan from Haikasoru, which naturally makes it your priority. “Tea” is a Philip K. Marks story; this is the fourth story I’ve sold starring Mr. Marks, who’s a sort of run-down paranormal detective with huge chunks of his life missing from his memory (but not from some unpublished stories). For some reason when I think of Marks I tend to get some really awesome ideas.

I have some stiff competition in this anthology, though. Here’s the complete TOC:

Genevieve Valentine “(.dis)”

Yusuke Miyauchi “Sky Spider”

Libby Cudmore “Rough Night in Little Toke”

Ray Banks “Outside the Circle”

Yumeaki Hirayama “Monologue of a Universal Transverse Mercator Map”

Brian Evenson “Best Interest”

Jyouji Hayashi “Vampiric Crime Investigative Unit: Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department”

Naomi Hirahara “Jigoku”

Carrie Vaughn “The Girl Who Loved Shonen Knife”

Kaori Fujino “Run!”

S. J. Rozan “Hanami”

Violet LeVoit “The Electric Palace”

Setsuko Shinoda “The Long-Rumored Food Crisis”

Jeff Somers “Three Cups of Tea”

Chet Williamson “Out of Balance”

Hiroshi Sakurazaka “The Saitama Chain Saw Massacre”

Get excited and pre-order this one today! And while you’re at it, buy Haikasoru’s other anthologies: The Future is Japanese and Phantasm Japan.

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Speaking @ The 2015 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference

Me Smart.

Me Smart, circa 2014.

As some of you may recall, I conducted a seminar on plotting a novel at last year’s Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, which was a smashing success. Or at least I was not chased from the building, pantsless and weeping, as so often happens when I am invited to things.

Welp, surprisingly, they invited me back to offer my insta-classic seminar Take Your Pants Off and Write! The Benefits and Pitfalls of Pantsing vs. Plotting a Novel once again.

http://www.writersdigestconference.com/index.php/schedule

What will you learn at this amazing seminar? Many things! I’ve written nearly 20 novels and published 9 of them for money, so I can obviously string fictional events together into a story. If you’re struggling with that aspect of your writing, I’ll be exploring the two main plotting processes writers use (pantsing vs. plotting), the advantages of each, and how they can be combined into something I have dubbed plantsing.

You will also learn how sweaty a grown man can become in public, how often his wife interrupts him so she can “tell the story right,” and how many times he can mention the fact that he’s published nine novels. Also, I’ll be lingering around the rest of the day, lurking on the edges of the events until the cocktail reception, at which time the pants come off and my inner John Belushi comes out.

Pass this on to anyone looking to improve their writing! Or anyone who wants to insult me in person.

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